Champions Cup: Leinster’s Leo Cullen expects tough clash with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in the quarter-final

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Leinster coach Leo Cullen believes his side has a “great challenge” ahead as they travel to Welford Road for their Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers.

The Irish side has endured an “unusual campaign” as they were forced to forfeit a pool game against Montpellier due to a Covid outbreak.

Seeding disappointment

Cullen was disappointed with the outcome that ultimately impacted their seeding in the competition. Subsequently, his side will travel for their quarter-final instead of playing at home.

“We had our disappointment with Montpellier ourselves because we know how important all the points are in terms of travelling away, so we’re away in Welford Road based on seedings,” said Cullen.

“It is what it is, a great challenge for us now. The tournament itself, it has been a very unusual campaign with what happened at Christmas.

“What happens in the future, I’m not quite sure now in terms of the format of four pool games or six pool games and this last-16.

“It has been strange, even last week when we were down in Galway. It was into the proper stuff this week and the next game, the quarter-final, it’s into the proper stuff then.

“To be the winner, you’re going to have to go hard. It’s how you manage three knock-out games in four weeks now.

“You go quarter-final, semi-final, break back to your domestic competition, which is a big game.

“We have Munster in the Aviva that week (the final regular URC game for both provinces), then the final in Marseille on the 28th of May.

“It’s tough for a team – recovery, a bit of luck, how injuries come through. It is dust yourself off and get ready for the next one. We have a bit of time to plan for that quarter-final now.”

Leinster turn their attention back to the United Rugby Championship, where they are set to tour South Africa, where northern hemisphere sides have struggled thus far, to face the Sharks and the Stormers.

Looking ahead to the clash with the Tigers coming next month, Cullen, who played at the club, commended coach Steve Borthwick’s approach and game based on a strong maul.

“They’ve got a strong lineout maul obviously with the identity of their coach,” said Cullen.

“That’s probably a reflection of the job he has done there in a reasonably short period of time.

“He definitely seems to be the coach of the moment, lots of people even calling for him to join (England) before the World Cup, so we’ll see how that plays out for him.

“I’ve such fond memories of my time there and a lot of respect for the people who are there.

“A grounded bunch, I think it’s fair to say. I know they’ve had a sticky patch over the last number of years but in terms of what they have delivered this year, they have a fair bit of power.

“Even from watching the couple of games they had against Connacht where they mixed and matched their teams over those two games.

“The power in some of the backs, you think of the likes of Nadolo who is there, very experienced halfbacks in Ben Youngs and George Ford.

“A lot of their game is based off their lineout maul, so it would be a great test for our guys if that is the team we’re playing against. They certainly look like they’re in the driving seat.”

READ MORE: Munster to host Toulouse in Dublin for their quarter-final clash

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